The first time someone was bold enough to ask us how we "go" was in Homer, IL. We were camping in Sharon's back yard, and it was Crystal, her neighbor, who had asked. The reply was, "Well, if it's alright with you guys, we're used to digging our own holes. We thought we'd just go back here up against the corn." Sharon & Crystal's properties bordered a large corn field. They were just curious, and it was a natural curiosity, and I think ultimately, they wanted to make sure we had a "going" situation we were comfortable with.
Homer, IL deserves a blog post all its own. Spoiler alert: please don't skip Homer, IL if you are ever in or near east-central Illinois. In the meantime, here's a poop story:
Text received from Beastie Back Eastie (that's what I'm going to start calling my friend Rachel, as long as I'm west of her):
That sounds really cool would it be therapeutic for you to start a blog about your cross-country travels
Poop holes are going really well. Poops have been not so clean. :\\
Was burying poop without shoes on, started using the tool/my hands to scoop and pat the dirt over....long story short, wound up with poop mud on my hand. Discovered it right after I put down the poop hole digger with that same poopy hand. Soooooo, I calmly declared a level 11 alert which, apparently, means that Someone has poop on his or her hand.
After she said:
Lol that's gross and funny I have changed many Poupee diapers that became 11 emergencies alert
I took very picturesque photos of the luxury bathroom, aka: the poop kit by the poop hole...after securing the alert, of course.
So that's why the shit looks so nice in the picture...
This is the one I sent her:
I don't take pictures of shit.
That's a poop joke.
It features ultra-charming cornstalk wallpaper made of actual cornstalks, in their natural environment, still in the ground. And the sunrise through the skylight, which is spherical, more or less, and has no glass, is breathtaking. This tourist's home just oozes charm.
The above photo is from our stay in the Cisco cemetery in Cisco, IL, not far east of Decatur. Although there were countless poop holes dug before this photo was taken, and there have been countless dug after, there's no need to celebrate each and every hole. This one was noteworthy for its accompanying Level 11 Alert.
Pooping in the wild is not really as off-putting as one might think, once you've had a little practice. The learning curve, I assure you, is quite shallow. Humans, being the refined species that we are, tend to want to maintain a certain level of decency, and in my experience, that doesn't go away when living outside. I've found that the only other animal on the planet who maintains at least a similar decency when it comes to number 2 is the cat. Everyone else seems to just go where they are and not give two hoots about it, although I'm sure there is some rhyme and reason to it.
This decency is achieved mainly by containing the scent (shall we pretend it's something as decent as that?) which is done simply by digging what is essentially a poo-sized fallout shelter. There's also the element of privacy, which I'll get to. There's really not much to it, and I'm really drawing it out to make it more interesting and a little funny, although the subject naturally lends itself to humor, depending on who you are, I suppose.
I like our poop kit a lot. I think it's a good poop kit. Our poop kit consists of: a good sturdy and sharp poop shovel (or poop hole digger) and its protective sheath, TP stored in a plastic bag (I assume you really can't wipe well with wet TP), rubbing alcohol, and a long stem lighter.
Our poop shovel is a garden tool my mom gave me as a birthday gift one year. I used it almost every time I worked in the garden for the 5 or so years I had it before we departed on our bicycles. It's nice and sturdy, has one serrated edge and one flat sharp edge. The tip of it is split for pulling weeds, but we don't use it for that, it's just nice to have something tapered. Before leaving, I cut out a piece of leather to use as a sheath, and while it's folded into shape around the blade to keep it from damaging other things while storing it, I haven't sewn it up yet (any wagers as to if I ever will?), but it still functions well.
In addition to the TP, I keep what I call "pee pads" in the plastic bag. I started using pee pads about 2 years ago to save money on toilet paper. I'm a pretty crunchy granola, so just accept the fact that it's a little different. If you're not interested in the tangent about how I used and washed them before departing on a bicycle, skip to the next paragraph. I originally sewed 53 2-layer 4" pads out of scraps of flannel. I would use them only for number 1 and had a nice square tin to store clean ones in and a bucket under the sink to store dirty ones in. Ideally, when I had about 4 left, I would dump them into a pillowcase or two and wash them with the regular laundry--easy greasy, saves for sheezy. For what it's worth, it added to the laundry effort (water, soap, electricity) by about 1/4 of a load every month, and most of that was the pillow cases they were washed in anyway. The effort saved probably 2 rolls per month. I've slept a few times since figuring that out, so I could be remembering the numbers wrong.
When I left, I didn't give up my frugality, but I knew I didn't want to be potentially carrying around a month's worth of stinky pee pads at any given time, nor did I think I would have space for all of them, so I decided to match what I'd brought for undergarments and took about a week's worth, which I figured would be 21. I forget how many I brought. So far, I've only once used all of them in a given period, and most often, I go through half of them or less before I have the opportunity to do laundry, so I just toss the few that I've used in the wash. Now I'm using a mesh laundry bag I've had since I was a teenager toting pointe shoes in it. The pee pads are much more comfortable and much more thorough for wiping, so if you're granola is even slightly crunchy, I can highly recommend whipping some up for yourself and/or your family to use. The Internet is rife with tutorials.
Back to the poop kit. The rubbing alcohol is for the obvious disinfecting after going, and the long stem lighter, as you can see from Adam's note, is for helping the TP biodegrade faster. You obviously don't have to use a long stem lighter, but you can probably imagine why it's nice to have one for this purpose.
As for the location of the hole, I'm not terribly picky. Preferably hidden from any human who might see (and care if they do see) which sometimes means tramping into the woods a few feet away from a road. I try not to poop in places where I expect other people wouldn't want me to poop, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. I've pooped on the side of a country road using just my bike as a privacy barrier, at the edge of many cornfields (fertilizer, or...?), along the back edge of most of the cemeteries we've spent the night in, you get the idea. You might notice that I tend to prefer edges of areas. I think it's just common courtesy if you're going to be pooping not into a toilet that you poop off to the edge somewhere because you never know if something is going to come dig it up (it's happened) before the worms and flies have taken care of it. When we're camped for a few days, I like to keep my bathroom activities 20 feet or more away from both the tent and the kitchen areas. I've read in mulitiple places that this is a good idea, and I agree. In case animals are attracted to it, they won't come trotting up to the tent to check it out.
Recently, Adam and I took to planting sticks on the site of the hole. This is helpful and courteous to other poop spot users so they can avoid digging a hole only to find a smelly surprise and experience what I'll call a Level 10 Alert: one or more elements of the poop kit has poop on it.
The size of the poop hole is really up to you, but you don't want to dig it too small. In my step-dad's book, he recommends a hole around 4-6" across and about as deep. Because I'm a strict directions follower when I'm doing something for the first time, I did actually measure (the poop hole digger has markings every inch, how useful!) the first couple of times. Once I got used to digging holes, I didn't need to measure.
It seems like I've been going on entirely too long about poop and digging holes for depositing poop, but I like to be thorough (see what I did there?).
A note on safety with burning the TP, before you light it, check that the surrounding area is clear of things that might catch on fire and start a big fire. If you have time, try to do this before you go. Grass, leaves, pine needles, roots....can all catch on fire, so if you don't clear them, be prepared to step on them quick or take responsibility for a forest fire. We've talked about it, and Adam says, and I agree, that probably plenty of forest fires have been started by some camper who thought, "I've got this." It goes without saying, but I should probably say that you should avoid leaving the flaming TP unattended. I have, at times, I admit, gone away for one sec and come back for various reasons. It's probably not the best idea, so I should continue trying to avoid doing that. If you tend to be an impatient person, just skip the burning and bury the poo.
When you go to cover the poo, don't be like me, all spaced out, and start thinking it's like digging in the garden and use your hands...that's how we achieve Level 11 alerts. Once the TP is done burning, scrape the dirt that used to be where the poo is over your poo. You'll usually have a big (or small) clod of dirt, plop that over as well and using the tool, pat it down a bit so that it is level ground again, it doesn't take much patting. Just a few pats. I used to step on the dirt with my shoed foot to pack it in, but I quickly discovered that poo can squish out up through the dirt, so seriously, just a few pats with the shovel and be done. Bob Ross would say, "Don't piddle it to death." I couldn't agree more! If you can, when you're in the bush, find a log or rock you can move, dig the hole where the rock was, then cover with dirt and replace the rock when you're done. So far, I haven't done this yet, but it's also a good idea. Plant your optional poo-hole indicator stick, extra points if there's a leaf on the stick (poo flag!).
I'd say that's about enough about poo for now.